Energy Blog: The Lorax: I Speak for Myself

By Andy Silber

The Lorax: I speak for myself

The book that is often cited for awakening the environmental movement was Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring. It’s publication in 1962 (a year before I was born) is given credit for the banning of DDT and the passage of the clean air and clean water acts. But for those of us born in the 1960s, the book that opened our eyes to the need to protect the world around us was a book of poetry and art: The Lorax. So when I learned that there was a plan to make a full length CGI movie of The Lorax I was interested, but concerned that Dr. Seuss’s wit and powerful message would be lost. I finally took my son to see the movie at the Admiral Theater this week.

The movie covers the story from the book: a boy visiting the Once-ler to learn what had happened to the trees. The Once-ler tells the story of how he cut down all of the truffula trees to make Thneeds, something everyone needs. His factory pollutes the air and the water while his super Ax-Hacker cuts down the trees four at a time. The animals leave, as the land is no longer able to support them. While all this is happening, the Lorax, a whinny, old man, impotently “speaks for the trees” and warns the Once-ler that his actions are destroying the ecosystem. Eventually the Once-ler, who is not practicing sustainable forestry, cuts down the last tree. His factory shuts down and he lives alone with his remorse among the devastation he wrought. The story ends hopefully with the Once-ler giving the boy the last truffula-tree seed and telling him that

Unless someone like you…cares a whole awful lot…nothing is going to get better…It’s not.”

The movie tells this story, staying true to the original version, including its strong message of anti-consumerism. The movie also expands this story. We learn about the boy, the town he lives in, and his effort to plant and protect the truffula seed. The Thneeds are gone, but now people buy bottled air the way many buy bottled water today. The movie opens to the O’Hare Air delivery guy happily driving around town delivering bottles of air. No plants grow in this town: not a tree, bush or blade of grass.

One thing that struck me is how the world as imagined by Dr. Seuss that seemed so other worldly now seems mundane in the context of a modern animated movie. The Seussian view of the world has so influenced my generation that it has somewhat lost its power to delight. Not surprising is that most of Dr. Seuss’s poetry is missing. It’s hard to maintain that for 90 minutes; the best I can recall was less than a minute on Moonlighting.

The most interesting part of the movie isn’t from the book. The climax has the boy, his inspiration (a pretty and passive girl) and his grandmother trying to plant the truffula tree in the center of town. The man who made his fortune selling air knows that this is a risk to his business model and rallies the town against this “dirty” tree. The parallels to the climate change “debate” and the role of Exxon et al. in spreading misinformation is obvious. The climax is when the O’Hare Airdelivery guy speaks up. Knowing that his job is at stake, he comes out in favor of planting the tree. This turns the tide in favor of protecting the tree.

It reminded me of the Upton Sinclair quote that “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” (Thanks Jon). In the real world, we’ve had many of these moments: for instance, in 1997 the CEO of British Petroleum spoke about the need of action on Climate Change. Soon after that Shell Oil came out as a believer in human-caused climate change. Still, the sowers of unreasonable doubt have strengthened their position in DC since then.

Back to The Lorax (the movie). Even more than the book, it ends on a note of hope. The Lorax returns to hug the Once-ler while he waters his small truffula trees. Sure, it’s a Hollywood ending. And it’s up to “someone like you…(who) cares a whole awful lot” to bring this kind of ending to the challenges we face in the real world.



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Seattle Parks Summer Water-Saving Project Includes Several West Seattle Parks

Seattle Parks to conduct pilot water-saving project in selected parks

Water, budget savings to be evaluated in the winter

To anticipate and possibly offset upcoming budget reductions, Parks and Recreation staff are working on a strategy to reduce water usage and costs while maintaining the health of Parks’ living assets.

“Our crews are excited about being able to make a tangible contribution to our water conservation efforts,” said Acting Parks Superintendent Christopher Williams. “It’s also an opportunity to learn what may happen during drought conditions and to validate the assumptions in our drought contingency plan.”

Parks pays about $1.25 million each year to irrigate 300 of Seattle’s 430-plus parks. Of these, about 100 have their water use regulated by a state of the art, computerized irrigation system thatmeasures how much water is needed at any given time and turns irrigation on and off at precise times.

Parks conducted a study of water consumption over the past five years and evaluated landscape irrigation priorities in order to plan for a drought that fortunately has not materialized. The results inspired the staff to put together a plan for testing Parks’ ability to cut water consumption without damaging the living assets that make our parks green.

From June through September 2012, Parks plans to stop or reduce watering in selected parks. Horticulturists and professional gardeners will experiment with the point to which a living asset can tolerate a lack of water without damage. Park sites for the pilot project fall into one of three categories: Irrigation is automatically turned off; irrigation is automatically reduced; or manual watering will stop or take place less frequently. Parks staff will monitor the landscapes for health and adapt if needed.

The West Seattle parks which are affected and the percent of watering which will remain and the percent of watering which will be turned off are shown in this chart.

Alki Beach Park 95% 5%
Alki Playground 95% 5%
Seacrest Park 85% 15%
Walt Hundley Playfield 85% 15%
Westcrest Park (incl. W. Sea. Res.) 75% 25%
Don Armeni Park 70% 30%
Roxhill Park 70% 30%
Hamilton Viewpoint 60% 40%
Emma Schmitz Overlook 50% 50%
Hiawatha Playfield 50% 50%
Westbridge 50% 50%
Cottage Grove Park 34% 66%
Southwest CC/Pool 15% 85%
Belvedere Park 0% 100%
Camp Long 0% 100%
Fauntleroy Place 0% 100%
Greg Davis Park 0% 100%
Lowman Beach Park 0% 100%
Solstice Park 0% 100%

Park users and observers will see some brown grass and some park shrub beds not watered as often as before; crews watering earlier in the day and less frequently at parks not controlled by the automatic system.

Priority for normal watering will go to athletic fields, specialty gardens, picnic shelters, and newly planted landscapes. Golf course irrigation is managed separately.

Criteria for evaluating the success of the program, which will take place in the fall and winter of 2012-2013, include how the plants fared, how the public reacts, and how much water and money were saved. Parks will have this information when bills come in for the pilot period.

If the pilot is successful, Parks may continue it, rotating sites so as not to put too much stress on a given site.

For more information contact Karen Galt, Irrigation Conservation Program Coordinator at 206-684-0370 or


Walk Score Team Introduces Bike Score!

The Walk Score folks have launched Bike Score and their first ranking of the Top 10 Most Bikeable U.S. Cities – yes, Seattle’s up there!

How Bike Score Works

Bike Score measures whether a location is good for biking on a scale from 0 – 100.

Bike Score is based on bike infrastructure (lanes and trails), hills, destinations and road connectivity, and the number of bike commuters. Read the detailed Bike Score methodology.

Your city not listed? Vote between now and the end of National Bike Month on May 31, 2012 to get Bike Score added for your city. Vote today for your city to get Bike Score

Also, the Walk Score site now includes most North American cities, so if you’r heading out of town, check your destination’s Walk Score to see if you can get around on foot.

In comments on their website, Matt Lerner, Chief Technology Officer at Walk Score, said “You still have to be brave, fast, and furious to ride in Seattle. We need more separated bike lanes (cycletracks) so beginners feel comfortable riding all over the city. I also think we might need a solar powered bike escalator up Capitol HIll!”

2012 Parks & Green Spaces Levy Opportunity Fund Proposal Letters Due to City by June 11

Proposal letters due June 11 for 2012/2013 Parks and Green Spaces Levy Opportunity Fund. The proposal letter is a simple first step to apply for funding. The 2008 Parks and Green Spaces Levy allocates $15 million in funding for community initiated park development or property acquisition projects, approximately $8 million will go towards projects in the 2012/2013 funding cycle of the Opportunity Fund.

Seattle Parks and Recreation is now accepting proposal letters,which are due by 4:00 pm on Monday, June 11. The Proposal Letters are the first step of the Opportunity Fund process for projects; the official application packet is due in September.

In the first round, $7 million was allocated to projects throughout Seattle. Rainier Beach Urban Farm, Bitter Lake Park Enhancement, Lewis Park Reforestation and an acquisition of a site at 19th and Madison are among the fifteen projects that received funding in the first round. There is up to $8 million for distribution in this second round.

Parks hosted three technical assistance workshops over the last month to announce the 2012/2013 cycle of the Parks and Green Spaces Levy Opportunity Fund.

If you were unable to attend the meetings and would like assistance in submitting a Proposal Letter, please contact one of the project planners –  Susanne Rockwell at 206-684-0902 or, or Emily Lofstedt at 206-684-7047 or

For additional information about the process, visit the Opportunity Fund website at

West Seattle Tool Library Publishes “Tool Library Starter Kit” To Help Kickstart Others

By Patrick Dunn

SWS Board Member & West Seattle Tool Library Founder

It might seem a little risky to lend out a bunch of power tools to those who probably don’t know how to use them. After all, tools can be dangerous, people can be idiots, and we live in an exceptionally litigious society. For some strange but very understandable reason, those concerns alone have been more than enough to effectively end many community tool libraries before they even start.

As the sharing economy continues to blossom, however, more communities are overcoming that inherent fear and establishing lending libraries to embrace the beautiful benefits of sharing with neighbors. Through Google groups, starter kits, and incubator workshops, new tool libraries now have the ability to overcome their inherent concerns by learning from the experiences of many who have come before them.

Though it seems like a relatively unique idea, around 40 community tool libraries already exist throughout the United States, from Philadelphia to Seattle and south to Oakland and New Orleans. Each has its own unique flavor but most operate roughly the same way by accepting tool donations from the community and then lending those tools out for free—or nearly free—to anyone capable of presenting an ID and signing a waiver. Through that basic setup, some tool libraries have been happily participating in the sharing economy for over 20 years.

While most tool libraries are more than willing to share whatever they’ve learned, a handful of libraries have recently led the charge towards making it increasingly easy for even the most cautious and underfunded communities to take up the challenge. Strangely enough, these libraries happen to be some of the youngest.

In like fashion, the founders of The West Seattle Tool Library, myself included, also felt compelled to share everything we were learning in the planning and management of our own tool library. Since the first day we starting planning the project, our hope was to develop The West Seattle Tool Library into an easily replicable model for any individuals and organizations interested in starting their own version.

“The biggest reward for me is being a part of the amazing community of tool libraries, as well as all the makers, fixers, artisans, and neighbor s who use them,” says Gene Homicki, one of The West Seattle Tool Library’s founders, “I wanted to encourage that community’s growth by making sure that everyone who is interested in tool libraries has access to all the resources they needed.”

With that in mind, The West Seattle Tool Library set about creating a tool library starter kit. Our hope was that this kit would effectively comfort the worrisome souls who were either intimidated by the numerous details of the planning process or quite appropriately concerned about safety, liability, and security. The result of those efforts recently became its very own project, Share Starter, which has now hosted a handful of tool library incubator sessions as well as developed a free starter kit.

Seattle Updating Bicycle Master Plan, Publishes Online Tools, Wants Your Input

To help further enhance cycling in Seattle, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is beginning an update of the Bicycle Master Plan.

SDOT has published an online survey and mapping tool to help Seattle cyclists participate.

Originally scheduled to be updated after five years, the Bicycle Master Plan has been effective at guiding improvements to the City’s bicycle system over the last five years, including the installation of 129 miles of bike lanes and sharrows, 98 miles of signed routes and 2,230 bike parking spaces.

An update to the plan presents an opportunity to include fast-evolving best practices and new thinking in bicycle facilities, safety, and design that will result in an even more connected bicycle network for all Seattle residents seeking to ride for recreation, shopping or commuting.

The Seattle City Council included $250,000 from the General Fund in the 2012 budget to complete the update, and provided guidance that the updated plan include neighborhood greenways and separated bicycle facilities to help to encourage more people to ride their bicycles for all trips. The updated plan will include a clear prioritization process, which will help direct where future bicycle investments occur.

“We’re so excited to see the City planning a network of safe, comfortable streets that connect us to our neighborhoods, whether we walk, drive, ride a bike, push a stroller, or move by wheelchair. The Bike Master Plan update is a critical step towards a healthier and more equitable Seattle,” says Cathy Tuttle, coordinator of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways.

“The 2012 Bicycle Master Plan update brings an incredible and timely opportunity to create and realize a vision for a community that bicycles, where bicycling is normal, convenient and safe for everyone,” says Chuck Ayers, Executive Director of Cascade Bicycle Club.

To kick off the 2012 Bicycle Master Plan update, SDOT has created two new tools:

This is a great opportunity to let SDOT know how people currently use existing bicycle facilities and what residents would like to see for the future, as well as help us prioritize the issues most important to the community. The survey has been translated into six different languages – Korean, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog, Chinese and Vietnamese – which are available at the same link.

“It is perfect timing to launch the Bicycle Master Plan update, as May is National Bike Month and there is a lot of energy surrounding bicycling and its consideration to make it an even more viable mode of transportation,” said Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, Chair of the Transportation Committee. “I encourage everyone living and working in Seattle will participate in the update by filling out the online survey and providing input using the mapping tool.”

SDOT will host two open houses in June to gather input for the Bicycle Master Plan Update. For more information about this project, go to or send an email to: to join the mailing list.

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways Now Online with Comprehensive Website

The grass-roots and community groups which are working together on creating a set of neighborhood greenways have created an online resource –

What are Greenways?  Seattle Neighborhood Greenways are residential streets generally one off of main arterials with low volumes of auto traffic and low speeds where people who walk and ride bicycles are given priority.

Who are Greenways people? We all are!

Formed in August 2011, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways is a rapidly growing volunteer coalition now representing 14 (as of May 2012) neighborhoods across Seattle to plan and advocate for safe, equitable, and comfortable streets connecting us to the places we use, whether we walk, drive, ride a bike, push a stroller, or move by wheelchair.

Imagine your neighborhood, knitted together with quiet residential streets where children and adults safely walk, ride bicycles, play and run. Imagine these streets are close to where you live and connect you to the places you want to go.  Want to know more, check out:

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways

See the Neighborhoods page to find your local group.

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways can  be reached at

Cascade Bike Club Creates Advocacy Leadership Institute – Seeks Applicants for July-Sept Class

Cascade Bicycle Club has created an Advocacy Leadership Institute.  This will help with creating advocates for bikeable communities.

The Advocacy Leadership Institute (ALI) will develop local bicycle advocates and enthusiasts into leaders who inspire communities to advocate – and inspire others to advocate – for a bike-friendly Seattle.

Building on Cascade Bicycle Club’s mission to create better communities through bicycling, ALI will train a diverse group of 15 people from across Seattle to organize in their communities, advocate for bicycle-friendly transportation plans and policies, and get better bicycling infrastructure built on the ground.

The 2012 Advocacy Leadership Institute will run from July 1 1 through Sept. 24, meeting nearly weekly on Wednesday nights from 6:00 pm  to 8:00 pm  in downtown Seattle. Participants are expected to attend at least six out of the eight trainings. Though the program is free, participants must be truly committed to making Seattle a great city for bicycling.

Applications are due by Friday, June 1. Admittance to the program will be based on your passion for making Seattle a world-class city for bicycling. Minorities, women, and people of all ages are encouraged to apply.

For more information contact Max Hepp-BuchananAdvocacy Campaigns Manager, Cascade Bicycle ClubCascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation, phone: 206-2261040 and email:


Delridge Produce Cooperative Selects Storefront Location Near Delridge Library, To Open Late 2013

Spring is here, and with it comes wonderful news for healthy-food lovers! Here is an update on what’s going on with Delridge Produce Cooperative.

DPC has chosen a location!

A new housing development near Delridge Way SW and Brandon, run by the DESC, will be finished around the end of 2013 – and DPC has been in negotiations to secure a commercial space on Delridge Way SW.

The plan is to open a green grocery store selling organic fruits, vegetables, greens, roots, seeds, nuts, grains, flours, oils, nut butters, bottled tomato sauce and a few similar items, bread, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products in the beginning of 2014.

DPC plans for a large part of the produce purchases to come from the Delridge community itself, and so they have a great need to reach out to neighbors to find and recruit members and growers.

If DPC can connect gardeners to the food hub that is being developed, everyone can all eat healthy, local food without paying the high prices that can be common for organic produce at the grocery store.

USDA rules for organic food allow DPC to present small growers (those whose businesses gross less than $5000 per year) with rules that they sign, stating that they use no pesticides or other unhealthy farming methods. DPC can encourage local farming and help to revitalize Delridge’s economy by becoming a great place for neighbors to make a little extra cash.

Next steps

Over the next two years, DPC needs to build our member base, raise money, and recruit neighbor-farmers in order to be ready to open as soon as possible once the store is built. From now until the time the new coop opens, DPC will host one public meeting per month, when they will invite new volunteers to come and find out what they can do to help. DPC needs people to help schedule volunteering time, oversee fundraising and recruiting projects, knock on doors, show up to local events and distribute information, recruit new members and farmers, join the Board of Directors, and contribute their professional talents on a volunteer basis.

If you like talking to people and making friends, wDPCe especially needs you to do person-to-person outreach to the community.

For more information email the folks at DPC at or check out their website at